20 Sep 2012   |   News

EU hatching new plan for transport R&D

Commissioners announce effort to mobilise greener and more efficient transport for Europe

The European Commission launched a new proposal to increase research and investment in Europe’s transportation sector.

Titled the “Research and innovation for Europe’s future mobility” the plan doesn’t propose any new EU funding or regulations but instead kicks off an initiative to meet with Member States and other relevant stakeholder to discuss policy priorities and objectives.

The plan is to develop a long-term policy strategy that among other goals, is to reduced road casualties to almost zero and greenhouse gas emission from the transport sector by 60 per cent in 2050. Speaking about the plan, Vice President of the European Commission, Siim Kallas said: “This new initiative will help our transport system to develop into an even more efficient, sustainable and user-friendly system to reach our mobility goals. It will impact positively on growth and jobs in Europe.”

The transport plan joins an increasingly crowded field of ‘roadmaps’, Strategic Agendas, and other broad policy pronouncemnts from the Commission, that  aim to have a positive impact on growth and jobs in Europe.

It also follows on from a 2011 White Paper on Transport which laid out the vision, objectives and strategies for creating a single European transport area.

The costs

Paying for this is not going to be cheap. The Commission estimates that the additional investment needed to invent vehicles, equipment and vehicle-charging infrastructure to achieve the emission-reduction goals for the European transport system will cost around one trillion euros between 2010 and 2030, or about the same amount EU households spend on transport in one year.

To start putting money towards the vision, two main funding options have been identified. Should it be approved,  the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) which was proposed by the Commission in 2011 to fund €50 billion worth of investment to improve Europe's transport, energy and digital networks would be the primary source as it has a proposed budget of €31.7 linked to transport. The second major source of funding linked directly to these objectives is Horizon 2020, which includes a proposed budget of €6.8 billion euros for research and innovation on "smart, green and integrated transport".

Europe is leading the way

According to a study by the Joint Research Centre, EU-based companies account for more than 40 per cent of worldwide industrial R&D investments related to transport. This puts the EU ahead of Japanese and US-based companies. In 2008, corporate transport R&D investments by EU-based companies amounted to more than €39 billion, making transport the largest industrial R&D-investing sector in the EU.

To keep Europe ahead of the pack and work towards its goals of increasing resource efficiency and limited environmental impact, ten specific areas of interest have been listed in the communication. They are:

  • Clean, efficient, safe, quiet and smart road vehicles
  • Clean, efficient, safe, quiet and smart aircraft
  • Clean, efficient, safe, quiet and smart vessels
  • Clean, efficient, safe, quiet and smart rail vehicles
  • Smart, green, low-maintenance and climate-resilient infrastructure
  • Europe-wide alternative fuel distribution infrastructures
  • Efficient modal traffic management systems (including capacity and demand management)
  • Integrated cross-modal information and management services
  • Seamless logistics
  • Integrated and innovative urban mobility and transport

The Commission notes that these objectives are neither final nor a list of priorities for future research and innovation programmes and could be adjusted during future discussion with stakeholders. They are meant to function as a starting point and to help in organising the road-mapping exercise which will begin in late 2012.

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